Is there some kind of a test for kindergarten? Well, not a test exactly, but an ASSESSMENT.
Ohhh…ok, well, what is a kindergarten assessment? It's something given at SCREENING for kindergarten.
Riiiight. Ok, well, what is the purpose of kindergarten screening? Screening for kindergarten helps teachers to get a good idea of where the (mostly five-year-olds) are starting and helps them to set goals accordingly.
If you are a first-time kindergarten parent, or it's been a while, and you want a refresher on what to expect, let me assure you that although screening for kindergarten is of utmost importance, it's much more a ‘get-to-know-your-child' moment rather than ‘a test for kindergarten.'
I'm here to fill you in on what to expect at kindergarten screening, what is a kindergarten assessment, and when kindergarten starts in the fall, you will feel confident and ready to go!
(Well…who are we kidding. You are probably going to want to eat all the donuts and cry into your coffee at the Boo-Hoo Breakfast after you watch your five-year-old walk down the hallway and into their kindergarten classroom – but that's another blog for another day. 😉 )
Pssst! If you are, in fact, a first-time kindergarten parent or know someone who is or will be soon…YOU NEED TO READ THIS. I'm dishing the dirt and telling you ALL the things you REALLY NEED to know…but don't KNOW you need to know! Get your FREE DOWNLOAD HERE. You're welcome. 😉
screening for Kindergarten
Screening for kindergarten is something that a lot of parents feel nervous about, but as a kindergarten teacher with 10 years of experience, let me assure you that it's not an “audition” for kindergarten but rather a way for us to get to know a bit about your child, and get a good idea of skills they already have. We will see a broad range of skills due to different pre-k programs, differences between young five-year-olds and almost six-year-olds, birth order, etc.
Screening for kindergarten will include an assessment – which is what some have referred to as “a test for kindergarten”. “Test” makes it feel like something that it's not – and there are some things we are looking for and observing that have nothing to do with ABC and 123. More on that in a bit.
what to Expect at Kindergarten Screening
I've taught at two different public schools in my kindergarten career. The first school conducted incoming kindergarten assessments in the fall. As the rest of the school was starting its first week back from the summer, we spent that week assessing new kindergarteners, making class lists, etc.
My current school conducts these assessments in May – usually the first week. We send out a welcome letter in late April to those who have claimed their spot and give them a 20-minute time to come in after our regular school day. (I teach in a historical building where we are limited with space. We are a lottery school – with only 60 kindergarteners each year. I realize this is a rare situation, and it definitely has pros and cons surrounding it.)
Parents and guardians bring their almost-kindergartener in through the office, sign in, and are given some forms to fill out along with a questionnaire about their child. The kindergarten team takes each child and runs through the assessment with them, asks if they have any questions, and returns them to their parents. We conduct the assessments in the kindergarten classroom closest to the office, with the door open, but we do ask parents to stay in the hall.
What is the purpose of kindergarten screening
What is the purpose of kindergarten screening? To get an idea of the skills your child already has, so we can have a great starting place in mind and so we can start to set some goals and chart our course to get there.
But, there is also another purpose – one that might not be so obvious. We are looking to see if the child can easily detach from the adult and, quite honestly, if the adult can easily detach from the child.
Yep. I said that hard truth that is SUPER uncomfortable to talk about for so many teachers. Going to kindergarten is a BIG step. We have found that in these few post-pandemic years, this has been a bigger battle than ever. It makes sense! Young kids were at HOME – a lot of them NOT in pre-k or activities, or out and about in general, so they weren't very comfortable with new situations – especially ones where they had to leave family members for any period of time.
But…pandemic or not – there are always a few parents who aren't quite ready to let go. Please, be your child's cheerleader and champion and encourage them to take on this independently. They need to be able to walk across the hall with their soon-to-be-teachers solo, and then when they are returned to you 15-20 minutes later, you can high-five and hug them and celebrate their bravery and confidence.
Here's what I've learned in 10 years of kindergarten. Parents often have the ABSOLUTE best of intentions and want to love on their kiddo and keep them little as long as possible – I HEAR you, SEE you, and can ONLY IMAGINE what I'd do in your shoes.
But may I ask you to read something to get a perspective that you may never have considered? A humorous behind-the-scenes look at kindergarten – and WHY a little bit of independence goes a LONG, long way. It's free. Download it. Read it. 😉
what does kindergarten screening consist of
What does kindergarten screening consist of? This will vary from state to state and from school to school, but usually, the screening consists of one of the kindergarten teachers being paired up with an incoming kindergartener.
The teacher will meet the parent and child and explain (to the child) that they're going to get to see a kindergarten classroom and play a few quick games with letters and numbers. The parent is left to fill out a “Get To Know Your Child” questionnaire and any other forms the office has provided for them.
This usually only takes 20 minutes max. At both of the schools where I've taught, there are anywhere from 3 to 6 other teachers assessing kids at the same time. There is always banter back and forth between the teachers to all of the kids as they come and go, which also gives us a tiny glimpse into personalities, among other things.
what is a kindergarten assessment?
What is a kindergarten assessment, and is this part of the screening? A kindergarten assessment is “a test for kindergarten” that people usually refer to. It is part of the screening, but as I mentioned before, there will always be a broad spectrum of skills.
There is NOTHING WRONG if your child can't yet say all of the letter names and sounds. If I took a poll of all kindergarten teachers, I promise you they would rather have an entire class of kindergarteners who knew no letters or sounds yet, if they could separate from their parents and were independent bathroom users! 😉
The actual assessment usually consists of the following:
- Writing their name
- Saying the letter names and sounds of both upper and lower case letters
- Identifying the beginning sounds of words
- Identifying a rhyme with a given word
- Identifying numbers
- Correctly reading the first 10 or so most common sight words
POP QUIZ: What happens if your kindergartener doesn't know their letters yet?
(Answer will be found at the bottom of this blog post)
MY 10 TOP TIPS for kindergarten screening
1. Be sure to let teachers know about allergies, medical conditions
This should be a question on forms you will fill out, but we also include it on the “Get To Know Your Child” questionnaire. If you don't see the question asked, be sure you write it down somewhere. Your teacher should speak to you about this when they see the info. If they don't – don't assume they saw it. Send an email or mention it. Put any specific notes in writing. Remember, your teacher is getting to know 20+ students at once.
2. Let your child go into the classroom with the teacher
Your child may show some anxiety when it's time for the assessment. Encourage them, and then let the teacher try to lead them into the classroom or assessment spot. There have been a few occasions when the child simply will not go in without their parent – and exceptions were made. However, this isn't preferable. You will not be sitting with your child each day in school (I HOPE! ;)) – and so this little exercise in independence is pretty important.
Also – please don't be the parent that hovers at the door watching. (I know! This is the tough stuff to say that is awkward for teachers to say and for parents to hear!) I know it may feel like not a big deal – but if we have 5 five-year-olds assessing at once in a classroom, with 5+ adults squeezing into the doorway just to hear how it's going – well, hopefully, you can see how this isn't ideal.
3. Don't panic if your child doesn't know all of their letters/sounds
I've already touched on this, but it's SO important for you to know. THE MOST important thing for your kindergartener is to have basic independence in place – NOT to know all of their letters, sight words, and numbers. Trust me.
4. Ask the office for a school-year calendar before planning trips
While you are filling out your forms, be sure to ask if there's a calendar for the school year or where you can find one online. This is SUPER important! A lot of parents plan trips during the school year (Disney, the beach, etc.) and then get frustrated when they learn it will not be excused. This may not be the case for all schools or states – but CHECK WITH THE OFFICE BEFORE YOU BOOK THAT TRIP! Kindergarten IS real school, and attendance is NOT optional. 🙂
5. If your teacher has a questionnaire – fill it out and be completely honest
Look for a spot on the “Get To Know Your Child” questionnaire; this is your time to help your teacher know all they need to know so they can BEST help your child. If your child is prone to tantrums – please share it. If your child has bathroom accidents at home and prek – please share it. Helping your teacher be prepared is much better than a big ole ‘SURPRISE!'
I've made several calls home, trying to carefully word an incident that happened at school, just to hear, “Oh….yes. They do that at home a lot too.” (insert big-eyed emoji here ;)) Your teacher has your child's best interest at heart, give them all the info ahead of time!
6. Make observations about how your child detaches – If needed, work on it over the summer
I've mentioned this more than a few times now – that little dose of independence your child needs. If you notice that this is a struggle during the screening, ask your teacher for tips! We all have tricks up our sleeves to overcome this little battle. Work on it over the summer in little ways, and celebrate the little wins.
7. Don't pressure your child to perform
As I've shared before, this ‘test' is not an ‘audition' to get into kindergarten. I've had kids not be able to tell me any letter names or sounds during the assessment, and then during the first week of kindergarten, I discover they know them all. If parents are tense or anxious, usually the child picks up on that and gets stage fright. My advice is to let the child know they'll do great and that you can't wait to hear all about it – you'll be waiting ‘right here' for them. Most teachers will re-assess once school starts too!
8. ask when you will find out who your child's teacher is
I've seen this happen more than a few times, so I feel it's worth mentioning. Most five-year-olds assume that the teacher who assessed them will be their teacher. This is not necessarily the case! It MAY be – but it's not definite. You may want to ask to be sure, as five-year-olds can get pretty darn upset when it's the first day of school, and they are not in the classroom where they took the assessment, and their teacher is different than the one they met at screening. Avoid all the little battles before they happen! 😉
9. Find out about school supplies, and if there's a list – try to stick to it
Ask the office (or teacher) if there is a school supply list and when you will need to bring those in. As you make the mad dash to Target or Walmart, be sure to stick to the list as closely as you can. For instance, if it says red, blue, and green folder – don't send in rainbow kitty, sparkle llama, and flying pizza folders. I know this SOUNDS picky, but there's a reason. If they want/need those fun items (I mean..who wouldn't?!) – get them one for home! I always let my kids keep that one ‘special' notebook in their chair pocket if they want to write/draw after they've finished their work. Compromise!
10. Don't fret about academics – but do pay close attention to things you may underestimate: AKA…get this download
Ok, number 10 is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING when it comes to kindergarten. What I've learned over the years is that most new-to-kindergarten parents ask things about academic-related things – which makes sense! When I started teaching kindergarten, I focused on those things as well!
AND THEN, I WAS IN CHARGE OF 23 FIVE-YEAR-OLDS ON MY OWN. CHAOS. IT WAS PURE KITTEN-HERDING CHAOS, AND I AGED LIKE A PRESIDENT.
That's when I started noting the things that are MOST often overlooked before starting kindergarten. Maybe because no one wants to talk about it? Well…if you are reading this, I'm your friend who wants you to know when there's lettuce on your front teeth. I don't want you to walk around the restaurant and laugh and talk to people…WITH LETTUCE ON YOUR TEETH. I'd want you to do that for me!
So…get this download. I'm gonna tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what it's like in kindergarten.
when kindergarten starts
Hopefully, now you feel completely ‘in the know‘ about kindergarten screenings and kindergarten assessments. If there's a question I failed to answer, please don't hesitate to leave a comment or send me a message at email@example.com. I'm more than happy to share a laugh, offer up the lessons that I have learned, or help you find the answers you are searching for.
Kindergarten, in my opinion, can be the most magical place for your child EVER. I hope your child has the most wonderful teacher and learns to absolutely fall in love with learning. Take a deep breath, and enjoy the process!
Pop quiz answer:
Your kindergarten teacher will TEACH them! You work on their ability to zip up on their own – we'll handle the letters! 😉